Haredim and the Israeli army


The battle over whether Haredim should be mandated to serve in the IDF, like the rest of Jewish Israel, is not a new one. But the debate was brought to the forefront when the Sephardic chief rabbi threatened that Haredim would leave the country rather than serve in the IDF. This week, Mijal and Noam discuss the issue of mandatory conscription for Haredi Jews. They push each other to give generous arguments and ask, how can Israel possibly solve this contentious issue?

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Noam: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Wondering Jews with Mijal and Noam.

Mijal: I’m Mijal.

Noam: And I’m Noam and this podcast is our way of trying to understand the Jewish world. We do not have it all figured out. So let’s try to figure it out together. And shoot us a note at We love hearing your thoughts. So let me start with this. We got a really, really difficult question. You ready for this doozy? What is in your favorite sandwich?

Mijal: Well, first I’ll just tell you, Noam, I much prefer the juicy philosophical questions. These questions make me feel so pressured. It’s a lot of pressure, you need to have a favorite sandwich. Do you have one?

Noam: I mean, listen, I love a great tuna melt. Where it’s like a well-done tuna melt. On the meat side of things, I love a good schnitzel sandwich. I love a good burger with pastrami. Is that a sandwich? It’s not what I wanna put in a sandwich. I wanna put bread on different proteins. That’s how much I love bread. What about you?

Israeli soldiers on an armored vehicle speak with a Haredi man as they deploy near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on October 24, 2023, during the war with Hamas. (Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

Mijal: Yeah. I feel like you could have like a juicy philosophical conversation about how much you love to put bread on things. I eat mostly like toast with spreads. Is that a sandwich? Deconstructed. Toast with avocado, toast with apricot jam, toast with some really good spreads, things like that.

Noam: When did you start putting avocado on toast? Like were our grandparents spreading avocado on their bread?

Mijal: Yeah. I don’t think so.

Noam: No, so where does that come from?

Mijal: I have no idea.

Noam: Is avocado a vegetable or a fruit?

Mijal: No, Noam, don’t do this. We have to really answer these questions? Vegetable, vegetable.

Noam: Okay, I think you’re making that up, but that’s fine.

Mijal: Okay. Yeah Okay.

Noam: Okay, okay, all right, sorry. Let’s get serious, let’s get serious. Okay.

Mijal: Yes. Yeah, really serious Noam. Yes, I really feel so much more pressured with like, what’s your favorite karaoke song or like sandwich? More so than like what do you think about anti-Zionism? Like that just feels easier. Okay, I want to give a disclaimer about this question. I both want to ask you to help me think about the question, but I also want to ask you very sincerely to help me understand my own reaction to the question. Because this question gets me angry and it gets me emotional and I don’t 100% know why. And I also wonder if I’m being hypocritical.

Noam: Okay, so I’m looking forward to hearing the question and I can’t promise I’ll be helpful. I’m gonna do my best.

Mijal: Well, let’s name the topic. Okay. The topic is, and it’s not a new topic, but it’s in the news right now. But it’s, should Haredi Jews be conscripted to the IDF? In other words, should they have to go to the army in the state of Israel?

Noam: Now, the reason that’s a good question, just the context of this, is because in Israel, as opposed to in many other countries, there is a mandatory conscription where everyone, if you are Jewish, if you are male or you are female, you have to go to the army for a certain period of time. I think for males, it’s around two years and eight months. For females, it’s around two years.

And then there are other peoples that live in Israel that also have to go to the army, whether it’s the Druze people, and by the way, if you wanna know who they are, listen to Unpacking Israeli History, we just had an episode on that. The Circassians, another group of people who also have to go to the Israeli army. And Arabs can go to the army, but Haredim, meaning, will define, and you’re probably not gonna like this definition, but ultra-orthodox Jews, that’s like the standard definition of the term Haredi. How would you define Haredi?

Mijal: Well, yeah, I think journalists say ultra-Orthodox Jews. I know most Haredim I talk to don’t like that term, so let’s just use Haredim. But they, what’s the number right now of how many Jews in Israel are Haredi? Is it like 20%? Am I making that up?

Noam: I think it’s 15%.

Mijal: 15%. Okay, and not just is it a significant percentage of the population, it’s also, in terms of like how early they get married and how many children they have, like demographically, it’s like an incredibly quickly growing group in Israel.

Noam: Yeah, if you look at the numbers of Jerusalem alone, I think it’s fascinating. I think Jerusalem is around one third Palestinian Arab, meaning including the East Jerusalem, one third Haredi, and one third just Jewish, right? Which means that only one third of Jerusalem is Zionist in nature.

Mijal: Okay, well, I don’t know if I’m gonna agree with you on that.

Noam: Okay.

Mijal: No, no, I don’t know. Are you defining Haredim as non-Zionist? I don’t know if I agree.

Noam: Okay, fine. So maybe I just pushed a button in terms of something that you’re either confused about, passionate about, concerned about. You’re saying they would identify as Zionists?

Mijal: I think increasingly you’ve had a shift in Haredi society, and increasingly they feel part of the Zionist project. Increasingly they pray for chayalim, for soldiers in the army. They just don’t want to themselves be conscripted. But I’ll ask you, because you’re the historian from the two of us. Why is it that, unlike other Jews in Israel, Haredim don’t serve in the IDF?

Noam: Yes, with a caveat that I do not describe myself as a historian between the two of us. Yeah, I do unpack Israel history.

Mijal: More of a historian. I mean you do Israel like you okay all right you’re your historian podcaster whatever the whatever the-

Noam:  Yeah. I’m a, yeah, okay. Pop podcaster. The background is that in around 1947, there was a debate as to whether or not there could be a Jewish state, whether or not there was viability for that. And the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, UNSCOP, came to the region then known as Palestine to see. So David Ben-Gurion…

Mijal: Who’s David Ben-Gurion?

Noam: Was the first prime minister of Israel. He was the leader of what was called the Yishuv, the Jewish, how do you say that?

Mijal: Community settlement, whatever.

Noam: The Jewish community. And he basically got together with the different leading religious leaders in Israel and said, hey, listen, let’s figure things out together. And eventually the deal that emerged was that very few or that anyone that was part of the Haredi world would be exempted from going to the Israeli army. And at that point in time, when David Ben-Gurion made that decision, there were around 400 or so, it was a tiny, tiny group of people, that otherwise would have to be conscripted. And now the number is, I think, 66,000.

Mijal: What you’re basically explaining is that there was a moment in pre-state Israel in which in order to have consensus for like a pragmatic building of the state of Israel with a very small community back then, David Ben-Gurion basically agreed to treat Haredi Jews differently than everybody else.

And I’m going to add one more thing, Noam, to what you said. But tell me if I’m wrong here. It wasn’t only that they don’t have to go to the army. It was because they posited their way of life as instead wanting to prioritize Torah study.

Noam: Yeah, I think that it was a few things. One was to make sure that the very focus of the Haredim world is Talmud study, specifically in the Lithuanian part of the Haredim world, that there is an obligation for all men to be studying Torah as many hours as you possibly can. There’s a biblical verse that says, vihigita bo yomim v’lyla, that you should be studying these words day and night. And so therefore they felt on the one hand, this is what they should be doing.

And on the other hand, there’s also this very important reality that we have to remember. People like Eliezer Ben Yehuda and people like Micha Josef Berdyczewski, and I’m only saying a few names right now.

Mijal: Yeah, tell me who they are.

Noam:  They were really radical early Zionists who were trying to say that basically Zionism should be in some ways a referendum on Judaism and that we should look to our past as something that was, and go to our future to something that is new. They would say, like, we’re the last of the of the Jews and the first of the Hebrews. I think that’s a quote from Micha Josef Berdyczewski.

And so one of the things that the Haredi world was saying was, we don’t want to be part of this secular revolution. Allow us to keep our way of life. As you develop this new Jewish state, this new concept, let us continue to live our lives. Let us continue to be in our enclaves and we’re going to contribute how we contribute, but this is what we want to be doing in our lives. And if there’s going to be a new Jewish state, it shouldn’t take away from our Jewish identity. That would be unfair.

Mijal: Right, so you’re just reminding us that this is not just about the army and the IDF and terrorist study, it’s almost like a symbolism that we want to maintain traditional Judaism. And I would add to what you’re saying, Noam, that it wasn’t just that they didn’t want to be swallowed up by this secular Zionist revolution, many of them also saw themselves as preserving a world decimated by the Holocaust

Noam: Yes, very important.

Mijal: Right, this is not just about us, we are the remainder of the remainder. We’re like the last surviving Jews from our communities. And we want to really preserve this. Okay, So when I confront this question…my feeling is that yes, 100%, I believe Haredim should serve in the army, okay? But I’ll tell you some things though that give me pause. Number one thing that gives me pause is that I feel hypocritical, because I don’t live in Israel. And like, I didn’t serve in the army, you know what I mean? And like, I’m not raising my children right now in Israel. So part of me, you know, feels complicated about saying that, even as I feel strongly about it. The second thing I’ll say and it’s funny saying this but like most of my relatives are Haredim, and I love them. So it’s also complicated to feel really strongly about this even as they are my family.

Noam: Right. Well, I also have family in Israel, in Jerusalem, and they are very much so in the Israeli army. My cousin actually, my first cousin had half of his arm blown off in 2014 in Tzuk Eitan fighting in Gaza. So, to paint a really difficult picture right now, my cousins are living in Jerusalem, fighting in the north and in the south right now. And one of them, a number of years ago, sacrificed a limb, literally, for the state of Israel. Your cousins are living in Israel right now and living in a very different existence, I presume not going to the Israeli army. Yes or no?

Mijal: Yeah, although I do have a lot of family members who do go to the army, so I have both. So it’s like within the same family WhatsApp chat, let’s just say.

Noam: Okay. Yeah, yeah, I love the family WhatsApp chat.

Mijal: Yeah, they’re interesting, right? It’s like a little sociological research right there. But within the same family WhatsApp chat, I’ve got both. And that’s also why I jump when you describe that third as non-Zionist, because I have seen a huge shift in my Haredi family and communities around them, from actually being maybe a little bit antagonistic to the state or like the army, to actually being full-throat support, Tehillim groups, praying, learning. And they don’t want to themselves serve, but they don’t have this like attitude that I think was more common some years ago, in which you would look down at soldiers. They would speak of them with admiration. They would just say this is not for us.

So that’s why I think we have to acknowledge it. Okay, so I’m just naming there that I’m nervous that I’m being hypocritical and it’s also very close to home and everything is just coming to the fore. I also think it’s important to name, this question is surfacing up now. One of the reasons it’s coming up now is because there is actually a real need for soldiers in the IDF. For a long time, the IDF, the consensus in the intelligentsia was, we’re gonna have a smaller army with like very high tech. And October 7th kind of demonstrated the folly of that. So there’s like a real data that points to the fact–

Noam: There’s a need. There’s a need.

Mijal: There’s a need, there’s like 100% a need. But I’ll say one thing though, Noam, this question is not new.

Noam: No.

Mijal: This is the question that tore apart the people of Israel last year, because it was arguably one of the main questions at the heart of the judicial reform.

Noam: Okay, just say two sentences, we’re at a meal right now, you and I. What are the judicial reforms? What does that mean?

Mijal: Noam, one day we will actually have a meal together and then we’ll see.

Noam: One day, I’ll bring my sandwiches. You bring your avocado spread.

Mijal: So before October 7, and I have so much nostalgia for those days, but the people of Israel were talking about civil war. I don’t mean in terms of going to war, but in terms of the country just tearing itself apart. And it was because of, and again, depending on what you call it–

Noam: Yeah. Absolutely.

Mijal: Either a judicial reform or a judicial overhaul that the current government wanted to pass, which would, again, I’m saying it very quickly, strip away a lot of power from the court and give it to the legislature. There’s many more details. And what many identified and saw here is that the Haredi parties in government had agreed to be part of this deal partially to condition passing a certain law exempting them from the army in a way that couldn’t be easily reversed.

Noam: Got it, got it. Yeah, that’s a very important context. But the reason, Mijal, that we’re talking about this today, it’s been in the news since 1947, and maybe even before, is that recent statement that was made by the Sephardic chief rabbi known as the Rishon Lezion. This is Chacham Ovadia Yosef’s son. Chacham Ovadia Yosef is one of the most illustrious rabbinic figures of the 20th and 21st centuries. And he was the Sephardic chief rabbi. Mijal, did you have a relationship with him at all? Or your family?

Mijal: I never met him but my parents used to go on dates to his Saturday night, shiurim.

Noam: Wow, that is very different than what my Saturday night dates looked like. But okay, that’s amazing. He was a force. He really was.

Mijal: By the way, I know this is not the point, Noam, but I’m so proud of the fact that you said one of the most illustrious rabbis of the 20th and 21st. Like you didn’t say one of the most illustrious Sephardic rabbis. You know what I mean? So I’m just giving you a big, big thumbs up for that. Not everyone does that.

Noam: Yeah. Oh, I, okay.

Mijal: Just take the compliment, just say thank you.

Noam: Thank you so much. Anyway, the Sephardic chief rabbi made a comment. And the comment was, if they force us to join the army, we’re going to move, we’re not going to be part of this.  And so that’s why we’re talking about this right now.

You mentioned, Mijal, that after 10/7, there was, you didn’t use these exact words, but you just said like there was so much unity in Israel. Those previous people who were non-Zionist or like you said, antagonistic even to the state. Those people all of a sudden got out into the streets, started helping out, seeing how they could volunteer, seeing how they can be part of fortifying and defending the state of Israel, the Jewish people. And since then, that has been fraying. To me, it reminds me of that, this Hasidic line: The reason that the Jewish people are compared to sand is only through fire do they come together. And it’s a sad reality, but I’m not sure how wrong it is because now we have this new reality. The statement of ‘we will move abroad’ is the ultimate statement to me of saying we are not unified.

Mijal: So part of the arguments that I’m having with friends and relatives about this when I’m having it is the main response from some of my friends is not you are wrong, is, you are right, but it’s gonna tear us apart and we can’t afford that.

Noam: Right.

Mijal: So I think the part of what people are feeling is, there is on the one hand this existential need to literally figure out how we’re defending ourselves in a way that is sustainable. And there’s also this need of being a people.

Noam: Here’s what I want you to do. This is what I’m very interested in you doing.

Mijal: You have like assignments for me? Okay.

Noam: Yeah, here’s the assignment. Scale of one to 10. How strong are you on this issue? And, would you change your mind if I made an argument that was compelling to you? Or is this something that is, like you think that they should go to the army period. So I think you’re a 10 on this based on the way you started that.

Mijal: Um, I would say I’m like a, yeah, nine.

Noam: So meaning you’re willing to change your mind on this or you’re not? I think it’s such an important question that we always ask each other.

Mijal: So I feel really strongly about this, but how it happens, I can be convinced. But you haven’t given your answer, Noam.

Noam: I never do.

Mijal: I know, you have to. OK, how do you feel and where are you on the scale?

Noam: I feel conflicted is, that’s how I feel.

Mijal: Oh no, that’s not, we’re all conflicted about everything.

Noam: Some people are more conflicted than others.

Mijal: If it was up to you right now, should Haredi Jews in Israel be conscripted to the IDF? Yes or no?

Noam: Yeah, okay. No.

Mijal: Oh my gosh, okay. And where are you in changing your mind?

Noam: I could be persuaded.

Mijal: Which number? Choose a number.

Noam: Uh, 10. I’m at a 10. I’m super passionate about this issue on the one end, but in terms of, am I willing to change my mind? Yeah, I’m very willing to change my mind on this. If I have more information, if I have more data.

Mijal: So, okay, now let’s try to do it like this. Let’s try to do it together, okay? I wanna actually try to put here the most generous argument for both sides. And by generous, I mean like, not like a trollish caricature.

Noam: I’m so happy you said that.

Mijal: Let’s like co-create here. Okay, so you’re gonna start. Go for it. 

Noam: Darn it, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. Okay, all right, all right, all right. I’m just gonna give you the, I think a compelling argument.

Mijal: Okay, go for it.

Noam: Yeah, the Jewish people have for the last few thousand years been in existence. Why? Why are the Jewish people still around? The Jewish people have survived, they’ve thrived, and not only are they here, they’re growing, they’ve built something majestic over the last hundred plus years, and they’re still here. Why are they still here?

So a very simple point is, well, if we’re like everyone else, then the Jewish people shouldn’t be in existence anymore. And there’s something distinct that the Jewish people have that no one else has, and that is their commitment to studying Torah, their commitment to living a life of Torah and a commitment to serving God in that sort of way.

And if that’s gonna be taken away from them, then what’s gonna end up happening is that they’re going to be like everyone else. And if the Jewish people are like everyone else, then they will over the course of time either assimilate totally, be consigned or resigned to the dustbin of history. And we need people to actually spend their time studying Torah and living fully a life of Torah, a life that is not distracted, a life that is not engaged in doing things that could take you away from Torah from an observance perspective.

Throughout all of Jewish history. There’s always been this dichotomy of, you know, the merchants, the business people, and the people who are learning Torah. It’s called Issachar and Zevulun. And so, the Jewish people in order to be distinct have to incorporate that.

And one final point here that I have is that Rav Kook, who was, he’s described as the first chief rabbi of Israel, but he died in 1935 and the state of Israel was formed in 1948. So he was the chief rabbi of the Yishuv, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the Yishuv. And he makes the point that Zionism without religion is just gonna corrode and be ugly and just be like a nationalist, ethno-nationalist kind of movement. I just recently read that from Yehuda Mirsky’s biography of him, of Rav Kook, and I thought it was such an interesting idea.

And so I think that if you don’t have religion as a core part of one’s Jewish identity and the Jewish state, then it’s not recognizing what is really protecting the Jewish people.

And I think Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer was the one that utilized the term, Rabbi Yeshua Pfeffer is a Haredi Rabbi who speaks broadly to the globe, and he used the term the Torah Dome. He said, why should you think that the Iron Dome alone is going to protect the Jewish people, protect the state of Israel? The Torah Dome, having a whole group of people committed to studying Torah all the time, is going to be protecting the Jewish people.

And one last point here, the only issue that I have with that is what is described as a non-falsifiable hypothesis. Meaning there’s no way to prove that one way or the other.

Mijal: That’s the only issue you have with that?

Noam: That is an issue. Fair enough. Well said Mijal. Okay, yeah. One issue.

Mijal: Sorry, I don’t find it that compelling at all. I could give stronger positions for that position, for like, you know.

Noam: Let me hear it. Let me hear it. Let me hear a stronger position.

Mijal: I would almost make a pragmatic sociological suggestion, basically saying, Haredi society is not structured right now in a way that can be easily integrated into the IDF. And it’s just going to cause massive disunity because you cannot force an entire huge community to change so quickly and to do things they don’t wanna do.

Noam: I think that is significantly less compelling than what I said because the pragmatic, 

Mijal: Really? I just disagree with everything you said though.

Noam: Great, we’re allowed to disagree with each other.

Mijal: But that’s why I find my version more compelling, because I don’t need to buy into Torah study as the Iron Dome, right, as Haredi Torah study as the Iron Dome to then agree with that position.

Noam: Right, see, the reason I don’t find your take particularly compelling, at least right now, is that pragmatic argument could always be made and has always been made. And over time, it’s just punting, punting. And so the pragmatic issues have been solved in many ways. There’s the Hesder movement, Rabbi Amital, Yehuda Amital, who was the head of the Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion. And he helped develop this idea of the Hesder Yeshiva, where you would study Torah and then you would go to the Israeli army and you would be there for an extended period of time. And then there are units in the Israeli army that are described as Haredi units. And so pragmatically people can join them. The question is whether or not they should join them.

Mijal: No, no, of course, of course. No, but I’m making a sociological argument that conscription of a huge community that does not want to be conscripted for an army like the IDF is really complicated.

Noam: But Mijal, that I agree with.

Mijal: OK, but everything else that you just said, I don’t want to go into debate mode, let me talk about why I hold a different position.

Noam: Okay, as you hold a different position, I also want us to think about, because now my brain’s going, solutions. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on solutions.

Mijal: Let’s all move to Israel and have more people for the army so we don’t have to deal with it. Just kidding. That is a potential solution. OK, so I think like this. I think that I’ll say a couple of things that are not super organized. Like I said, this topic triggers me, so I have a hard time being almost detached about it. There was a video circulating. I can maybe put it in the show notes if anybody wants, of this religious Zionist rabbi who was responding to the Sephardic chief rabbi and he was talking about the tears of his wife who lost a son in the IDF, who was a Hesder student, who was somebody who just loved learning Torah and if it was up to him that’s what he would have done all day long. But because the Jewish people face existential threats, he had to go and fight.

And what this rabbi said is like how he didn’t say this way, but he basically said like, how dare you speak of your community as if your Torah is the only one that protects us, which devalues all of the Torah that is happening in all communities in Israel and which also devalues like the sacrifice that young men and women who go to the army are doing in which they are putting their life at risk.

But I’ll say the following, Noam. Right now, the Haredi way of life, not only do Haredi Jews don’t go en masse to the army, they are also highly subsidized by the state of Israel.

Noam: Yeah.

Mijal: So you have what is a completely unsustainable and untenable situation in which you have the fastest growing sector of Jewish society in Israel seeing themselves as though they deserve to be sponsored without participating in what the rest of the country believes is defense mechanism.

Noam: Yep.

Mijal: Now this is absolutely unsustainable in terms of security, it’s also unsustainable in terms of the economics of Israel, like we’re just not going to survive this way. And I would say something else. Especially after 10-7, in a region with so many enemies where you need solidarity, and when you need to have this feeling of like, like fates that are intertwined, right?

Noam: Yep.

Mijal: If you know that some families are literally putting their kids at risk and some don’t, what’s going on? And you know, and I read this post some months ago by this Haredi blogger who, he actually believed that things needed to change. And he said, if we’re honest, but really which parent would choose if they can get out of it to send their kids to fight?

Noam: Yep.

Mijal: It’s like almost like my blood is more sacred than yours. And I think I would feel very differently if A, the state wasn’t subsidizing this in like a massive scale. And if it was like a select group of like sages.

Noam: Yeah.

Mijal: And if it wasn’t such an invention, like we never, you said always in Jewish history we had scholars. Yes, 100%. Never in Jewish history we had entire communities where it was assumed that people would just sit and learn all day. And lastly, I would say like from our sources, our traditional sources, there is no doubt that when you have a milchemet mitzvah, an existential threat, your enemies coming before you, nothing supercedes that.

Noam: Yeah.

Mijal: So the phrase that comes to mind is, you know, will your brothers go to war and you sit here? That’s what it feels like. And I say this with a lot of humility because I don’t live in Israel. So I feel weird feeling so emotional about this.

Noam: So that quote is, Bamidbar 32:6.

Mijal: So you also remember pesukim by heart, no?

Noam: What? No, no, I just, that is one of the verses that I think has animated my thoughts obsessively since 10/7.

Mijal: What do you mean by that? Like talking to us here in the States?

Noam:  And just, it’s a verse in Numbers where Moses exhorts, and a half tribes of the Jewish people who don’t want to live in the land of Israel, and for economic reasons, essentially. And he says, while your brothers go to war, you’ll stay here? You’ll stay here? And the end, by the way, they are allowed to stay there. And the end, they do help their brothers and sisters.

Mijal: Because they fight.

Noam: Because they fight. So I think that the operative word has always been teshvu, that are you going to sit here? Are you going to be passive here? And so that’s always been my argument since 10/7. If you’re living in the diaspora where you and I both live, it, and this gets to my solution, by the way. So let me interrupt myself and give you my solution.

I think you said a lot of compelling things to me. Your arguments about the different types of sacrifice. I think we all have to, or I have to, think about that a lot more, because the sacrifice of an arm is very different than the sacrifice of waking up early to study a piece of Talmud. I’m not minimizing it, but they’re different. They’re different. And that’s going to be hard to convince me otherwise. So you’re framing that sacrifice is very helpful. But here’s, I think, the point, Mijal, for me. It’s that line that you just said. Are you going to sit here and be passive?

And that has to be the antidote. The way to solve this is not that everyone has to go to the Israeli army, but that everyone has to do something that is sacrificial, something that is giving of yourself to the other. And that, in Israel, they call that sherut leumi, national service. And I don’t see a reason why the entire country, by the way, not just the Jewish part of the country, the entire country should be doing things that is in service of others, sacrificing, for the common good. And so I don’t know that has to be the army, but it has to be something.

Mijal: You ran up against a couple of problems, though. Number one, we need more soldiers. Number two, you will get the same opposition if you have a mandatory sherut leumi kind of service. And number three, part of the reason people are frustrated is because Haredi leaders have not stood up and said, for XYZ reasons, including fears of assimilation, we don’t want to go to the army, but you know what? For two years or for whatever years, all of us will do the following. They have not said that. I’ll say one more thing. I’ve tried to be self-critical. I do think there’s a difference between those of us who don’t serve for whatever reason. And those of us who are creating an ideology out of not serving. Like I think it’s very different to create an entire worldview in which you say like, we don’t serve.

Noam: Here was my question that I wanted to ask you also that we didn’t get to, but when you heard Rabbi Yosef, Chacham Yosef, make that comment that we are gonna move abroad rather than serve, what was your visceral reaction?

Mijal: Well, I’m angry and also it’s a ridiculous comment because those communities literally depend on the state of Israel subsidizing their lifestyles right now and they are not gonna get that anywhere else in the world. It just felt really like a betrayal of a certain collectivity. And again, I say this being here in the States. So I’m just super hyper aware of my own deficiency here.

But okay, a different time, maybe when we finally have the Shabbat meal together, you’ll help me understand why this topic triggers me more than others and how I can have this conversation maybe. I don’t know.

Noam: Yeah, well, we saw the different sides of the conversation. Now, we should say neither of us identifies as Haredi. And I think it’s important to say in this conversation. Obviously, people who are Haredi naturally can give a better argument than I gave for it. But you know, the way I described it earlier is the way I saw it. Your point about sacrifice got me thinking a little bit more broadly.

And then maybe the solution that I said, even if it’s not implementable, I don’t see why that can’t be a solution for the entire state of Israel that is not just targeted at the Haredi world, but is targeted at the entire state of Israel. Anyone that’s a citizen of the state of Israel has to give, has to sacrifice. If that’s Israel’s army, that’s Israel’s army. If that’s a thousand other ways to volunteer that they could create some system for, there’s a thousand ways to volunteer. And by the way, in the United states, I think it would be great to have a mandatory national service as well at age 18. I would argue for that.

Mijal: So maybe I’ll just end with the following. I think part of the reason this is hard for me is that I care a lot. And also I love so many people who are Haredi and who disagree with me on this. And I love so many aspects of Haredi community and way of life. And I have so much respect for that. So that’s, I think, almost what makes this feel close to home.

Noam: Yeah, it’s close to home, and this is probably the one part of your relationship. You probably love them. You probably love your family, whomever, in so many ways. And this is the one thing that you’re like, I don’t understand what you’re doing. I don’t get it. I think it’s wrong. Okay.

Mijal: This one is painful because it’s like, aren’t we one, the Jewish people?

Noam: I think that’s why. Yes, we are one. But to be continued, Mijal.

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